Once a working parent, you are always a working parent. Working parents need support at all stages of their parenting journey – because there are always challenges, they are just different. There are at least two big stages to this working parent role. The first is after newly returning from parental leave when working parents are asking ‘Can I make this work?’ The second stage is further down the track when they have proven that they can make it work and now they are asking ‘How can I develop/progress my career and still be actively involved at home?’
For over 10 years, our company, How Do You Do It, has helped organisations support their working parents through ALL stages of being a working parent going beyond the typical focus on the immediate return to work journey. Of course, the beginning can be a very vulnerable time for new parents, so they need all the help they can get in how to manage their transition back to work. We help them in this first stage to focus on the differing roles that they now have, both at work and at home, and how to communicate with both managers at work and their partners at home to negotiate new boundaries and agreements.
While this is a particularly crucial time for working parents to receive support – it is not the only time. We’ve found that many working parents need help at different stages of life. Parenting and the need for support is very individual so people will need to access support at potentially different points. Whether their children are beginning primary school, starting high school or moving house, job positions, countries – or partners – working parents constantly have to reassess their priorities and their work/family mix and schedules. They still need help to be able to accommodate all the changing facets of their career and home life.
That is why at How Do You Do It, we do not limit the attendance at our programmes to only those with young children or babies. We cater for and encourage parents beyond their immediate return to work because while most people do return to work and those statistics are good – do they stay?
Working parents with older children have questions such as – how to progress their career, expand their network of influence and create a higher profile. This is alongside managing the challenges of older children such as involvement at school events, working out assistance with children’s homework and the increased emotional support required and the ever-increasing amount of school holidays. Talking and brainstorming solutions with other working parents about how they have done this juggle, or are doing it, is invaluable.
There are many benefits to having working parents with older kids in the programmes. They show the younger parents some perspective of the longer span of parenthood and help them prepare for what to expect and invaluable tips on how to manage it. As for what the parents of older children gain, the programmes help them both understand and reinforce the choices that they’ve made to date as well as give them the opportunity to reflect on what their version of success as a working parent is now and how to align with that. The inclusion of them as valuable employees who are still being supported to bring their whole selves to work means that they feel more loyalty to the organisation and are more willing to stay there. This is reflected in what some past participants have said:
“I have had the benefit of sharing experiences with people going through similar things even if at different stages and reinforcing our commonality whilst facing specific challenges- the receipt of advice and tips has been invaluable.”
At How Do You Do It, we have many strategies for supporting these often forgotten parents and find that having a range of ages in the group is very helpful for the whole cohort. They can see more of the working parent road ahead and feel more informed, comfortable and confident with the choices that they are making for themselves, their work and their families – and that can only be good for everyone involved.
We would love to hear from anyone who is a parent of older children – what advice would you give to younger working parents? And as a parent of younger children, what would you like to know from parents with older children? What works, what didn’t work for your family or situation?